Do you stress and wonder what to do when your relationship is in a state of chronic tension and unhappiness? And you’ve tried everything you can think of to promote change and nothing seems to help?

Most of us have been there. Things no longer seem exciting, but more than that, the same arguments and tensions keep cycling back and there becomes a general malaise or even contempt for our partner. One often feels helpless or powerless to make the dynamic change.

I have seen couples make significant changes to bring back the feeling of connection by putting more weight on the positive side of the equation of the relationship. When you’re not feeling the warmth this can be challenging, but keep in mind that by changing the behavior you can begin to change the negative patterns and beliefs about the relationship.

How to Build a Positive Foundation for Change

Here are a few strategies to begin to build a foundation of “good will” that can help create a better environment to be able to discuss the bigger issues. The goal is to be fully able to listen and to be listened to by your partner.

SHOW INTEREST in what is important to your partner when she/he is sharing. Be actively interested by asking questions and showing love and care. Sometimes this requires a “faking it till you make it” approach.

BE AFFECTIONATE. A squeeze or a hug or reaching for a hand shows that you care and sometimes nothing more needs to be said in the moment. This kind of gesture shows that you care despite whatever your differences may be.

SMALL ACTS OF KINDNESS. Bringing home a favorite dessert or remembering an important meeting your partner had can really help to build that foundation of good will.

SHOW YOUR CONCERN. If you see that your partner is upset or in a bad mood, instead of taking it personally, show concern by asking if they are OK, or if there is anything you can do to help. If your partner is upset by something that you did, apologies show an open mindedness to help communicate to resolve the issue.

BE EMPATHETIC. Saying things like, “I understand how you feel” or “you’re right, I can see how my saying that would upset you” will help your partner feel seen and understood.

BE ACCEPTING. Even if you don’t agree, showing a willingness to try to understand the others’ position show that you respect both of you having positions.

JOKE AROUND. Playful teasing can bring a lightness to arguments that need a pause.

SHARE YOUR JOY. Let your partner know when you feel delighted or excited, or when you are having a good time.